By Amanda Hosey
Your customers want and expect you to give back to your community. You can argue this isn’t so, but the numbers don’t lie. Countless surveys have shown customers will choose a community-engaged company over one that isn’t.
A study earlier this year found 79% are more likely to support a company that gives money to local charities, and 81% say this about companies that donate their services. And 81% of millennials (your future, like it or not) say they’re more loyal to companies that support their community.
Ideally you want to give back to provide help where it’s needed in the area that supports your business. This shows you’re an upstanding member of the community and makes the community a better place for you to live and work in.
Many business owners consider charitable giving a waste of time and resources. One person said, when asked what he gives back, “I didn’t take anything.” That’s an understandable frame of mind—after all, you’re running a business, paying taxes, making people’s lives better by selling them your services. And it can be hard to give anything away if you’re struggling to turn a profit or you don’t feel like the local market allows you to charge what you deserve for your services. Plus, some people simply don’t feel the need to help the community for their own personal reasons. If you’re still wondering “why bother,” consider charity from a purely business perspective (though at least a little care for community is helpful), and think about these benefits:
Tax deductions: Yes, you really can write-off charitable giving. Unless your company is a corporation, you file taxes through your personal return, and you can deduct cash contributions, gifts, etc. If you perform services at a discounted rate for charitable organizations, you can also deduct travel and other out-of-pocket expenses for the work.3 Keep in mind charitable organizations must be recognized by the IRS to be tax deductible. Visit apps.irs.gov/app/eos to search a database of deductible charities.
File deductions using the following forms by business type: Sole proprietorships/single-member LLCs use Schedule A; partnerships/multi-member LLCs/S corporations use Schedule K-1 with donations split between parties.
Publicity: Honestly put, giving in your community is a great way to market your company. Think of every sporting event you’ve ever gone to and the sponsor names on the field or court. And consider how many people engage with charitable organizations in your community and, therefore, how many people will hear about the good you’ve done. If “giving” things away bothers you, think of it as an investment in your company’s name and reputation.
Company culture: Do you want your employees loyal to your company? Bringing in hardworking friends to work for you? Talking positively about their workplace? Employees respect companies that make a difference in the community. A Fortune collaboration found employees who feel their company cares about the people it does business with are 13 times more likely to look forward to work!4
A Look at Mikey’s Fest with Mike Pailliotet
Amanda Hosey: What does Mikey’s Fest do?
Mike Pailliotet: Mikey’s Fest is a hands-on educational experience that benefits charitable organizations. Cleaners come from all over to clean Ronald McDonald Houses (RMH). Local cleaners and distributors volunteer their truckmounts, chemistry, tools, and gadgets to use. What use to take place with a handful of cleaners in skating rinks, motels, restaurants, or the VFW has grown to include hundreds of cleaners converging on massive locations to clean top to bottom in under a day. Our equipment auctions have also raised close to $60,000 for the homes.
AH: How did you decide on a charitable organization?
MP: A friend in St. Petersburg, Fla. was already cleaning the Tampa Bay RMH. He knew of another RMH that needed help with floors and furnishings that was too large for his crew. St Pete was our first venture into cleaning RMH, and Mikey’s Fest has since grown to include Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Greenville, S.C., and Reno, Nev.
One only needs to visit an RMH to see why we hold the organization so near and dear. What they do for families with sick children is just incredible. The homes are maintained by volunteer staff, and things can and do get away from them, especially in the guest rooms where families are asked to maintain. We clean all the floors and furniture and often do special projects such as repairs.
While many RMH are already taken care of by cleaning associations or individual companies, it’s shocking how many are not and have to rely on volunteers to do their best. It’s our goal to bring awareness to the RMH organization so local cleaners in each city we visit will step up and team together to keep the homes cleaned regularly.
AH: How did you grow Mikey’s Fest to involve so many?
MP: Word spread with the help of forums and Facebook. Now our events sell out each time. Many attendees liken it to summer camp and, at the end, not wanting to go home.
We’ve expanded the event to “give back” to new, up-and-coming, or struggling cleaners through our scholarship program. A newbie spending three days working side by side with industry leaders shaves years off learning and walks away with contacts of people they can call for help. We are now able to sponsor 12 cleaners.
A Look at Cleaning for a Reason
ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, has provided home cleaning for more than 37,000 cancer patients through its Cleaning for a Reason program.
- The organization contracts with residential cleaning services throughout the country.
- Any woman, man, or child in active cancer treatment is eligible for the service.
- Patients receive two months of cleaning services after being matched with a local cleaning service.
This program could easily be replicated by carpet cleaners in a given area. Consider working together with other service providers, types of cleaners, or even (gasp!) your competition to provide free services for families struggling through cancer treatments.
Choosing How to Give
1) Consider your company mission and values. What do you stand for? What makes a “good” company?
2) Consider your sector. You obviously don’t only have to give to organizations related to your industry, but it’s a good place to start thinking about giving.
3) Decide what you want to give. Are you looking to volunteer free or discounted services? Donate money? Think about what you can give and then what you want to give. Don’t commit to more than you can give.
4) Decide where you want to give. Do you want to stay hyper local, like the neighborhood your company is in? Broaden to city/county? Or do you want to go wider at the state, country, or even international level.
5) Consider what you expect to gain. If you are solely looking to be charitable, then giving to a smaller cause or non-local charity works for your purposes. If you’re expecting some word-of-mouth advertising, a larger local charity might work best. If you expect immediate recognition for your donation, try sponsoring sports where your company name will be visible.
6) Do some research. Don’t give money away without seeing where your hard-earned cash will go. Poke around on the internet, talk to people who are involved, etc.
7) Make a list and get some input. Once you have your top choices narrowed down to a few, ask your staff for their input. Maybe put it to a vote. It’ll help team morale and loyalty even more if your employees feel like they helped. If you’re looking to deduct your charitable giving, don’t forget to check that your choice qualifies with the IRS.
We Give Free/Discount Cleanings
“We provide free carpet, tile and grout, and upholstery cleaning on a regular basis for local non-profit organizations… and some small churches.” — David Nixon
“I give away cleaning for animal shelters each year. Also I take 25% off anyone who adopts a dog or cat all year.” — Frank DiGiugno
“We are cleaning 85 area rugs for a local elementary school that was flooded by Imelda.” — Chris Bodin
“We give churches a 20% charitable donation of services we perform on their buildings. We now service almost every major church in our area.” — Charles Reyes
We Give Time/Sponsorship
“Rotary International has been a great organization for me! It’s non-political, non-religious!” — Rick McCarthy
“I sponsor kids’ [sports] teams, and I have banners on the fence at two local schools in the area.” — Phillip Scott
“I’m a volunteer firefighter.” — Nick Craig
We give Donations
“We buy the local elementary schools lunches for a week at a time periodically.” — Jerry Walker
“We donate [cleaning service] gift certificates to silent auctions of worthy fundraisers.” — Eddie Martin
“Volunteering at the local chamber of commerce…trivia where the winner can choose a non-profit we donate to, [sponsoring] one family per month, etc.” — Anna Bisaillon
“We give 50% of our proceeds to a small missionary aviation college in our community… The proceeds go towards paying the students’ tuition.” — Josue Sanchez
In the end, hopefully you find something you care about—dogs, sick children, single moms, church, rights, research, etc.—and parlay that into a cause you can give to, financially or otherwise, and see the benefits for yourself.
Amanda Hosey is the managing editor of Cleanfax. She has worked as an editor and writer for more than six years including four years with Cleanfax. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.